Diabetes drug called “breakthrough” in the fight against obesity

Semaglutide is an artificial analogue of the human hormone GLP-1, which is released into the blood after a meal. Semaglutide as a weekly subcutaneous injection is usually prescribed for type 2 diabetes as the drug reduces the concentration glucose in the blood, and also affects appetite, reducing hunger and calorie intake.

An international team led by scientists from the Center for Obesity Research at University College London (UK) has conducted large-scale clinical trials of Semaglutide as a weight loss agent. The third phase of testing, the results of which published in The New England Journal of Medicine, began in the fall of 2018, and lasted 68 weeks (almost a year and a half). Almost two thousand people from 16 countries of Asia, Europe, North and South America took part in it. All participants suffered from excess weight or obesity, but not type 2 diabetes.

Once a week, half of the participants received a subcutaneous injection of Semaglutide (2.4 milligrams, nearly five times the dose prescribed for diabetes), and the other half received a placebo shot. In addition, all participants were interviewed by nutritionists every four weeks to help them maintain a low-calorie diet and lead a more physically active lifestyle.

As a result, the participants who received Semaglutide lost an average of 15 kilograms on average over a year and a half, while the participants in the placebo group lost only 2.6 kilograms.

Three quarters (75%) of participants in the “Semaglutide” group lost more than 10%, and more than a third (35%) lost more than 20% of their starting weight.

“None of the existing weight loss drugs come close to this level of effectiveness. For the first time, with the help of a medicine, it was possible to achieve an effect that until now was possible only with the help of gastric bypass surgery, ”- noted Rachel Batterham, professor of endocrinology, one of the leading authors, called the test results a real breakthrough, revolutionizing the situation and opening a new era in the fight against obesity.

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In addition, participants who received Semaglutide significantly improved scores associated with risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes – decreased waist circumference, decreased blood fat and glucose levels, normalized blood pressure, and improved overall quality of life. Long-term use of the drug in high doses was found to be safe – some participants at some point complained of mild nausea and diarrhea, but these symptoms eventually disappeared by themselves.

Thanks to these successful trials, Semaglutide is expected to gain approval as a treatment for obesity from EU, UK and US regulatory agencies.

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